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Volunteers give key boost to Exodus prison ministry

BOLIVAR, Mo. (BP)–It takes more than one person to keep a ministry running. Candace Betts of Exodus Ministry in Missouri knows that firsthand.

“My volunteers are the third most important ingredient to the ministry, right after the Lord and the families who come to Exodus,” said Betts, who directs the ministry’s programs in Bolivar; the other site is in Jefferson City.

“Without the volunteers, the families would have a very limited contact with God’s people,” Betts said.

Volunteers come from area churches, youth groups, local families and Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar.

One volunteer, Gloria Falcone, has been there since the beginning. “This lady has done everything from scrub floors, paint, hang pictures, to teach the ladies about Christ in a weekly Bible study,” Betts said.

Falcone, a member of First Baptist Church, Bolivar, said she’s just doing what God has told her to do.

“He gives us a job to do and teaches us how to do it,” said Falcone, who operates a lumber brokerage with her husband, John. They have five daughters and 12 grandchildren. Because she had worked with Betts in a local jail ministry, Falcone said, she gained insight into the value of a program such as Exodus.

“I see the necessity of helping women get back into society,” she said. “They need a full-time mentor, and one person can’t do it all. They need Bible study and parenting classes, so if we have four or five volunteers agreeing on solid principles, they can’t get away from it. Some reject it, some accept it.”

The Exodus Ministry program in Bolivar, which has seven board members, accepts only single women or single mothers. Six women have participated in the program since 1995; two have completed it. Two have returned to prison.

When the task starts seeming tiresome without any results, Falcone said, she turns to Isaiah 61. “These girls are captives, captives of society, of mindsets. People who are captives need to be set free, not just from bars, but all the things that have happened to cause the bondage they’re in.

“So many people in jail have the same problems. These gals have had time out to think and now to get back in and do it right,” said Falcone, who also leads a weekly women’s Bible study in the Polk County Jail.

“God is the God of second chances and third chances or whatever it takes. These gals need to know that nothing we do is not redeemable, and it takes time and effort and unconditional love to do that. And that’s my personal calling.”

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  • Stacey Hamby